"Special Olympics Makes Me Happy"

If you ask Daley Fitzpatrick what she likes about Special Olympics, you get a long list. "Special Olympics makes me happy," she says. "Special Olympics is important to me because I have lots of friends. Everyone is nice to me and no one laughs at me."

A Big Surprise

Daley Fitzpatrick will be competing in her first-ever Special Olympics USA Games in Princeton, New Jersey.

Daley has been with Special Olympics Georgia for 7 years now, and she’s about to make her first-ever trip to the Special Olympics USA Games in Princeton, New Jersey – a national event that happens every four years. "She is very excited about it, but I don't think that she can really understand all that's involved until she gets there," says Daley’s mom, Linda. "She knows that she will be competing in New Jersey but I think she's in for a surprise — a good one."

Daley, age 20, competes in track (athletics), softball and basketball. At the USA Games, Daley will focus on athletics: she'll run the 100-meter, the 200-meter and her newest event, the 400-meter. She's been doing intense training since March and is getting faster and faster. Her coach tells Daley to "kick it"--get her speed up--and she's been doing great.

Doing Her Best

"She really wants to do her best," says Linda, who recalls the breakthrough when Daley truly realized the concept of competition. "She ran a race and afterwards she told me, 'Mom, that girl was trying to pass me!' And you could tell she was thinking about that. So, I asked, 'What would happen if you let her pass you?' Daley said, 'She would win.' 'So what did you do?" She said, ‘I kicked it!'," recalls Linda. "She couldn't express it but she could feel it. I think it made her feel great!" 

Indescribable Bond

Daley will have her family cheering her on – as well as her best friend Skyler, who she met through participating in Special Olympics.

At USA Games, Daley will have her family cheering her on – as well as her best friend Skyler, who is also a Special Olympics athlete. “They are each other’s ‘first friend’ … and have an indescribable bond,” says Linda. The two friends run at different levels, so they won’t be competing with each other. “Daley is the more outgoing; Skyler is more quiet and offers a calming effect on Daley, so they balance each other out. They also finish each other’s sentences – and are very protective of each other.”

Linda says Special Olympics has helped Daley so much with her confidence and with socialization. Daley has also gotten involved in the Athlete Leadership program, which has helped her a lot with her speech. Linda says, "There just really aren't any other activities for young people with intellectual disabilities. With Special Olympics, Daley has friends and she is learning new things all the time."

Paving the Way to Success

Special Olympics helps athletes – and those around them – see themselves for their abilities and paves the pass to accomplish the goals they never dreamt possible. Linda adds, "Sports show all these athletes that they can do things they didn't know they could. “Daley has learned the value of teamwork. She also understands the feeling of a doing a good job – whether that earns a gold, silver or bronze,” says Linda. “It’s all helping her grow to be a better person.”